Tag Archives: cleaning up


I was downstairs the other day when I heard this rumbling sound coming from the second floor. As I hopped up the stairs, the sound got louder, and when I made it up, there was a puddle of water growing outward from the bathroom door. I opened the door and the toilet was overflowing. I don’t know how or why it started to overflow right then and there, because I hadn’t used that toilet in a while, but this train of thought only lasted for five seconds, tops, because the more I stood around and thought about it, the more gross toilet water was making its way out of the toilet and into the rest of the house.

NGS Picture ID:1443475

My first instinct was to grab the plunger and get right to work, which, with the toilet bowl already filled to the brim with toilet water, with the water cascading down the sides of the bowl, only made things splash around. I tried to position myself standing on my tiptoes, as if I could somehow get to work here without getting wet, but as soon as I started plunging, up and down, there were these mini tidal waves making direct contact with the front of my pants.

It wasn’t working. And that’s when I thought to turn the water off at the source, something I should have done immediately. But I only let myself contemplate my missteps for another second, second and a half, because I was standing there and my shoes were getting wet. I had to bend down to reach for the knob behind the base of the toilet, and I was really afraid that some of the toilet water was going to splash on my face, which somehow it did.

Once the water was off, the sound of rushing water went away, which gave me the false sense that my problem had been solved. This feeling of comfort didn’t last very long, as I realized that I had a huge mess on my hands. My brain was looking for some sort of quick action. Or, if not an immediate fix, at least an immediate plan, something that I could get to work on right away, a series of steps that, once executed, would make my problem go away. But I didn’t know where to start. And the growing pool of water that was escaping the bathroom made its way to the edge of the staircase, so I could hear the water start to trickle down in those little lines of very rapid drops.

There was a towel hanging next to the shower, and without really thinking it out, I just grabbed it and threw it to the ground. But the water was so much that it immediately overwhelmed my puny effort. The towel soaked through, and it hadn’t made any noticeable dent in the water level. And now what was I supposed to do with the towel? I couldn’t pick it up and put it anywhere, it would just drip all over the place. If anything, I’d only added to the mess.

I thought about paper towels, but no, I had to go down to the basement and find a mop. And then I had to mop everything up with a bucket until it was all clean. It took like two hours, total. I was just sitting there, I had other things on my mind besides mopping the floors, and then all of the sudden the toilet went bonkers and totally hijacked my day.

And just as I was going over the floors with a soapy solution, I heard the same rumbling sound coming from downstairs. I went to run, like a real life game of human whack-a-mole, to turn that water off before there was another giant mess to clean up, but the floors were still slippery from me having just mopped everything up, and so I wiped out, my feet flying out forward, the back of my head hitting the lip of the top step before my entire body slid.

And I would’ve fallen the entire flight, but right as my head made contact, my left arm instinctively shot up and grabbed on to the railing. So I was stable for a second, but only a second. With the wind knocked out of me due to the hit to my head, I started panicking, concentrating all of my strength toward my left hand on the railing. It must have been too much weight for the piece of wood bolted to the wall, because something popped out, a piece of hardware, I couldn’t be sure, and when that gave way, that’s when I fell down the rest of the stairs.

My bottom tooth had punctured the inside of my lower lip, and as I opened my eyes after realizing that I wasn’t seriously injured, I felt the dual sensation of the warm blood filling my mouth as well as a coolness at the back of my head. It was a puddle. It was coming from the bathroom. I don’t know how it got to me so quick, or maybe I’d been knocked out for a little while when my body tumbled to the ground floor.

Then there was a loud popping sound, like a burst, like a mini explosion. It was the upstairs bathroom. I definitely turned the water off, but there must have been some sort of pressure behind it, because now there was a strong current of rushing water pouring out of the bathroom, down the stairs. I was getting soaked from above and below. And I tried to twist my body into an upright position, but everything hurt pretty badly, and so I let myself just kind of sit there, the water accumulating under my head, now maybe half an inch deep.

And then I heard the doorknob turn, I realized too late that I was unfortunately positioned right by the front door. I tried to scream out, “Wait!” but she must not have heard me over all of that running water, and when the door opened, it opened right to my head, another slam. Right before I blacked out again, I could hear my wife, screaming, she was just like, “Jesus Christ, Rob, what the fuck?”

Gum check

I’m a waiter. I get people Diet Cokes and make sure that everybody’s happy. Great. The dinner rush comes and goes, closing time is at eleven, and barring any customers trying to spend the rest of the night camped out at my tables, it’s time for me to start making my way toward the exit. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as counting up my tips and calling it a day. “Hey Rob,” the head waiter calls out to me just as I’m packing up my stuff, “Make sure you check for gum.”

gum under the table

Fucking gum check. Do you know what that is? It’s me having to get on my hands and knees with a flashlight and checking to see if anybody stuck their chewing gum underneath the table. And you know what sucks? You know what’s really crazy? It’s that there’s always gum. Every single night, there’s at least one wad of chewed up gum stuck under one of my tables.

Unless you work as a waiter or waitress, maybe you think that I’m full of shit, that nobody goes into a restaurant and knowingly deposits their chewed up gum for someone else to clean up. I mean, that’s what I used to think before my bosses started making me do gum checks. The first time I thought it was a joke. I was like, that’s a funny thing to go and check for. Why would anybody spit out a piece of chewed up gum, inside a restaurant, at a table, and just leave it there?

But sure enough, I did that first gum check and there were like three pieces of gum. I couldn’t believe it. A hot towel wasn’t really doing the trick, because this stuff had since dried out and cemented itself in place. I found this flat chisel shaped tool, and that was kind of doing it, but finally I went to the maintenance guy who gave me this can of compressed gas stuff that froze the gum at the end of a long tube.

Still, it was a pain in the ass. Each piece of gum took like two minutes to clean up. Multiply each piece of gum by two, add that to the end of a busy night waiting tables, it’s not fun. It’s not a nice way to wrap things up. That first night I thought to myself, man, they must not have checked these tables in a while. Well that should take care of the gum problem for a few months at least.

And then on my second night, just as I was about to head out the door, the head waiter stopped me again, “Hey Rob, did you make sure to do a gum check?” and I barely even halted my stride. I just paused long enough to say, “No man, we did those last night.” But he persisted, “No, Rob, we have to do those every night. Gum checks every night.”

Every night? That seemed a little much. Sure, I could accept the fact that maybe once in a while someone would be careless enough to leave a piece of gum under the table. Maybe they were on a date, maybe they forgot to bring a wrapper or they were too embarrassed to ask for an extra napkin. I don’t know, things happen, people get funny in restaurants.

Like I said, once in a while. So I grabbed the flashlight just to kind of go through the motions, like yup, check, no gum, check. But on that first table, I couldn’t believe it. It was another three pieces of gum. I had just cleaned three pieces of gum from this table the night before. And now three more pieces? Was it three different guests, each leaving their own mark on our furniture, or was it a repeat offender, someone just constantly chewing gum in between bites of food?

At this point I wish I could say that I’ve made peace with the insanity of my situation. But every night, right as I should be on my way home, I find myself on the dirty floor scraping someone else’s chewed up gum off of the underside of our tables. It’s every night. It’s every table. What in the actual hell is going on? Who does stuff like that?

Since there’s so much gum at this restaurant, I’m statistically bound to assume that the majority of diners are guilty of this offense. But since I’ve never actually heard anybody talking about leaving gum, no friends or family members, I’m inclined to believe that everybody’s doing it in secret. Everybody chews, everybody sticks it to the table, and nobody says a word.

And all that’s left is me touching other people’s chewed up gum. It’s disgusting. It’s the absolute worst way to end any night. There’s nothing I’d rather do less than squeeze myself under a table and, with one hand hold a flashlight, using my free hand to clean up gross nasty it’s-been-in-someone-else’s-mouth-for-a-while chewing gum.

So here’s out with it. If you’re reading this, if you go out to eat, don’t put your fucking gum under the table. Ask me for a napkin. I’ll stick out my hand at the table and you can spit it out right there, I’ll catch it, I’ll actually do that, because even though that sounds horrible, trust me, I’d rather do that right there while it’s still fresh and pliable than at the end of the night when I’m tired, and I want to go home, but I can’t go home, because your stupid gum is all dried up and stuck, and maybe I’ve got half of it off, but the base layer won’t budge, and it’s coming off all stringy, and the gum string is really thin and wispy, and did one of those strings just float up and hit me in the face? In the mouth? Get me the fuck out of under this table, please, just go to the bathroom and spit out your gum, come on, let’s do it like they do in Singapore, where if you get caught chewing gum some police officer has to give you like ten lashes to the back with a cane, you know, that’s not a bad system, we look at them and think, how cruel! How barbaric! But we’re the barbarians here, we’re walking around chewing this gum like it’s cud, and we’re just sticking it anywhere, it’s sticky and so I don’t have to find a trashcan, I can just leave it wherever the hell I want. Why? I have no idea, but I’m just going to do it, and I don’t care, because some other jerk will clean it up eventually, and it won’t be me.

Don’t be an inconsiderate asshole. Spit out your gum in a napkin.